SUNY Chancellor King Announces Registration is Open for Direct Support Microcredentials

August 1, 2023

Partnership with OPWDD Offers New Microcredentials at SUNY Campuses Statewide

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. today announced the start of the direct support microcredential program approved earlier this year to provide training that leads to national certification in the field of developmental disabilities. The program was developed in partnership with the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to recognize the distinct skills and competencies required of today's direct support professionals.

The first classes will begin at Niagara County Community College and will roll out at other participating colleges across the state through early fall including: SUNY Corning, Dutchess Community College, Empire State University, Finger Lakes Community College, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Jefferson Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNY Morrisville, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Schenectady, and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

"SUNY is proud to participate in this partnership with OPWDD to support the state's existing direct support professionals and provide a pathway for individuals new to the field to start out grounded in certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals," said SUNY Chancellor King. "This is the first of what we hope will be many multi-campus applications of SUNY's microcredential program to help address an urgent workforce need. Our congratulations to Niagara County Community College and its provider partners for being the first to launch classes under this new program."

Kerri Neifeld, OPWDD Commissioner, said, "Elevating the direct support workforce through training and credentialing will encourage more people to join its ranks and experience the personal satisfaction that comes from supporting others to live their lives with dignity and independence. OPWDD is excited to see this partnership with SUNY and the National Association of Direct Support Professionals succeed and we congratulate Niagara County Community College for being the first to launch their curriculum and inspire future direct support professionals."

Each campus is working with an OPWDD-operated or affiliated provider partner to help upskill incumbent workers or to provide internships for those new to the field. Niagara is working with several area partners, including Beyond Support Network, Christian Heritage Services, and sasi, and hopes to partner with additional organizations in the coming weeks.

Supported through $5 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, this microcredential program aims to assist direct support staff already working in the profession and those new to the developmental disabilities field in earning college credits that meet requirements for certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Students will be able to secure national certification and college credit toward a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. The grant program covers tuition, certification, fees, books, and student support, and students can earn a one-time $750 stipend.

Niagara County Community College (NCCC) President William Murabito said, "Niagara is proud to join with our fellow SUNY campuses in helping to recognize and elevate the critically important role of the direct support professional. We are working with area agencies to help retention and meet the academic and career goals of employees. We also hope this grant program will bring new people into the field who have a passion for helping others through the opportunity to earn college credit and a SUNY microcredential at no cost."

National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals President/Chief Executive Officer Joseph M. Macbeth said, "To effectively address longstanding systemic issues surrounding the direct care workforce requires bold, new ideas and strategies. It is critical that we find ways to attract and recognize a new generation of professionals. The NADSP is honored to work with the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the State University of New York (SUNY) on creating a pathway to national certification for SUNY students that prepares them with the knowledge, skills, and values that are required to build quality supports for New Yorkers with disabilities."

Jeff Paterson, president and CEO of sasi, said, "As one of the region's leading service providers, sasi is working hard to recruit and retain the workforce needed to provide the best possible supports. We deeply appreciate the partnership of Commissioner Neifeld, OPWDD, and our colleagues at Niagara County Community College in offering meaningful opportunities for direct support professionals to learn and grow in their professional practice. We're truly excited to collaborate on this exciting initiative."

Beyond Support Network Chief Executive Officer Anne Spisiak said, "Our mission is rooted in the belief that every individual, regardless of their abilities, deserves equal opportunities to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. To that end, we are committed to providing exceptional services designed to cater to the diverse needs of the individuals and communities we serve; and we recognize that in order to achieve these goals, we need to acknowledge and support the crucial role that our well-trained and highly skilled workforce plays. We are thrilled to participate in the SUNY microcredential program in partnership with the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), and Niagara County Community College. The assistance from these organizations in facilitating skill-development programs and providing additional resources to our team members not only strengthens our ability to deliver personalized care and support tailored to the unique needs of each individual but, in turn, strengthens our communities as well."

Heritage Christian Services Regional Vice President Chuck Collard said, "This microcredential program is an amazing opportunity to recognize the essential role of care professionals. Providing education and opportunities for advancement are crucial to addressing the increasing demand for staffing for OPWDD services in New York. It is our goal to elevate the role of care professionals to accurately reflect the complex and compassionate work that they perform each and every day. We are grateful to be able to do this through this important collaboration."

Lindsay Stoddard, currently enrolled in the Niagara program, said, "Taking these microcredentials really has brought full circle all the things I have learned over my 7-plus years working under the OPWDD umbrella. I have held four different positions in this field, where I have received a couple of different orientations and many different trainings over the years. So far, these courses have captured many of the key takeaways and important responsibilities of a DSP while upholding professional and ethical guidelines. Moving forward, I strongly feel these courses will benefit me, as I will have a better perception of identifying the skills and attitudes required to be an effective DSP. My hope is to have a more organized understanding and solid foundation so that I'm able to oversee others one day and support them in becoming the most effective DSP possible."

Cory Williams, currently enrolled in the Niagara program, said, "The microcredentials are incredibly valuable for both my work and personal life. The comprehensive training has equipped me with essential skills and knowledge, enabling me to provide exceptional support and care to individuals with developmental disabilities under OPWDD's purview. This experience has not only enhanced my professional capabilities but also fostered a deeper understanding of compassion, empathy, and inclusivity, positively impacting both the individuals I serve and my own personal growth."

Enrolled students not yet working in the developmental disabilities field will be offered work-based learning opportunities with OPWDD or OPWDD-certified service providers. In addition, the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation—the state's leading resource and support system for OPWDD provider agencies and support professionals—will offer training, coaching, and mentoring supports to providers participating in the program.

These microcredential programs build on Governor Kathy Hochul's efforts to expand the direct service professional workforce and address worker shortages. Last fall, OPWDD entered a three-year, $10-million partnership with NADSP to offer three levels of credentialing for direct support professionals and frontline supervisor certification through its E-Badge Academy.

About SUNY's Microcredential Program

This fall, SUNY will offer nearly 600 microcredentials at 51 of its 64 campuses. Microcredentials are smaller, academic- and skills-focused credentials that can be completed in months, not years. SUNY's program is designed to provide earners with immediate workforce-ready skills, knowledge, and experience, while also providing a pathway to additional credentials, certificates, and degrees. Recognized with the inaugural Business Council of New York State Workforce Innovation Award in Higher Education, SUNY microcredentials increase access to higher education by providing another pathway for New Yorkers to earn the credentials they need to meet their academic and career goals, all while collaboratively meeting the needs of New York businesses and industry.


The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) provides high-quality person-centered supports and services to people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological impairments. OPWDD provides services directly and through a network of over 600 not-for-profit providers. OPWDD's mission is to help people live richer lives that include meaningful relationships, good health, personal growth, and a home within their community. For more information, visit or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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